Let me say outright that I bear you no
unusual malice anymore. Nor
do I wish for you tumors or loose stools,
blood in your urine, oozings from any orifice.
The list is endless of those ills I do not pray befall you:
night sweats, occasional itching, PMS,
fits, starts, ticks, boils, bad vibes, vaginal odors,
emotional upheavals or hormonal disorders;
green discharges, lumps, growths, nor tell-tale signs of gray;
dry heaves, hiccups, heartbreaks, fallen ovaries
nor cramps—before, during, or after. I pray you only
laughter in the face of your mortality
and freedom from the ravages of middle age:
bummers, boredom, cellulite, toxic shock and pregnancies;
migraines, glandular problems, the growth of facial hair,
sagging breasts, bladder infections, menopausal rage,
flatulence or overdoses, hot flashes or constant nausea,
uterine collapse or loss of life or limb or faith
in the face of what might seem considerable debilities.
Think of your life not as half-spent but as half-full
of possibilities. The Arts maybe, or
Music, Modern Dance, or Hard Rock Videos.
Whatever, this is to say I hereby recant
all former bitterness and proffer only all the best
in the way of Happy Birthday wishes.
I no longer want your mother committed,
your friends banished, your donkey lovers taken out and shot
or spayed or dragged behind some Chevrolet of doom.
I pray you find that space or room or whatever it is
you and your shrink have always claimed you’d need
to spread your wings and realize your insuperable potential.
Godspeed is what I say, and good credentials:
what with your background in fashions and aerobics,
you’d make a fairly bouncy brain surgeon
or well-dressed astronaut or disc jockey.
The children and I will be watching with interest
and wouldn’t mind a note from time to time
to say you’ve overcome all obstacles this time;
overcome your own half-hearted upbringing,
a skimpy wardrobe, your lowly self-esteem,
the oppression of women and dismal horoscopes;
overcome an overly dependent personality,
stretch marks, self-doubt, a bad appendix scar,
the best years of your life misspent on wifing and mothering.
So let us know exactly how you are once
you have triumphed, after all. Poised and ready
on the brink of, shall we say, your middle years,
send word when you have gained by the luck of the draw,
the kindness of strangers, or by dint of will itself
if not great fame then self-sufficiency.
Really, now that I’ve my hard-won riddance of you
signed and sealed and cooling on the books against
your banks and creditors; now that I no
longer need endure your whining discontent,
your daylong, nightlong carping over lost youth,
bum luck, spilt milk, what you might have been,
or pining not so quietly for a new life in
New York with new men; now that I have been
more or less officially relieved of
all those hapless duties husbanding
a woman of your disenchantments came to be,
I bid you No Deposits, No Returns,
but otherwise a very Happy Birthday.
And while this mayn’t sound exactly like good will
in some important ways it could be worse.
The ancients in my family had a way with words
and overzealous habits of revenge
whereby the likes of you were turned to birds
and made to nest among the mounds of dung
that rose up in the wake of cattle herds
grazing their way across those bygone parishes
where all that ever came with age was wisdom.
Thomas P. Lynch
Thomas Lynch is an essayist, poet and funeral director of Lynch & Sons funeral home in Milford, Michigan.